Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Home. Arghh!!!

The Arghh is not because i am home.
I am actually really happy to be back for a break. I shall be pampered and fed good food which after 6 months on instant noodles and soup is heaven. And i feel normal. I am no longer too tall, too broad, wavy haired freak. Yay!!!

The Arghh!!! though is because my freedom loving government has decided to block blogger, typepad and some other websites. (Though apparently the Andaman and Nicobar islands aren't a part of India any more - you can access the sites from there).
I tried accessing a few blogspot.com sites last night and after many futile attempts concluded that something must be wrong with my server. I could access blogger and write posts and what not but couldn't see any published sites, you see.

It was only when i read the papers this morning i got to know of the so called ban. Apparently in the aftermath of the Mumbai blasts the government wants to block websites spreading hate and have on their list sites like hinduunity.org, hinduhumanrights.org , bloodspot.com , dalitstan.org along with which they have clubbed blogspot and typepad. Now, why do i have a feeling that the idiot who is responsible for this blockade doesn't know that blogspot and typepad actually host millions of blogs??
I would argue about the absolute ridiculousness of the block but Falstaff has already done so, to great effect, here.
Also please check out Bloggers Collective and press coverage of the issue at Wiki.

So while I am happy to be home, I am completely outraged that I now have to navigate through cyberspace as though i am in China, Iran, Pakistan or even Saudi Arabia. Didn't we use to live in a democracy that respected freedom of speech and expression?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Can we move on now?

This World Cup just runneth over....
for the record I am so over l'incident headbutt. It happened. Its over. Zidane is still awesome and i luff him.
Ok now that that’s clear...i have now regained my sense of humor and just sit and laugh my ass off over all the hoopla about who said what and allegations and counter allegations. Obviously we aren’t going to get the facts any time soon.

By the way, does anyone know how much business have lip readers and translators gotten out of this whole incident? Not that they have done a very good job of anything.

So let’s see. The lip readers. What did Materazzi say? Few of the many, many many versions I’ve read so far - "Your sister is a prostitute", "son of a terrorist whore", "terrorist son of an Algerian whore", "an ugly death for you and your family".
Ok then, the necessary background info. Algerian, immigrant, muslim and mother in the hospital the day of the final.

Fine. So maybe if the two people involved said something it might be clearer. Wishfull thinking. Well, especially for primarily English speaking people. The whole thing happened in Italian. Materazzis statements in Italian. Zidanes is in French. The translations - somewhat random.

Materazzi says - "I didn’t mention anything about religion, politics or racism. I didn’t insult his mother. I lost my mother when I was 15 years old and still get emotional when I talk about it. Naturally, I didn’t know that his mother was in hospital but I wish her all the best."

Yesterday Zizou finally spoke. Only spoke is probably the wrong term. Passed some cryptic remarks about what was said more like.
"The words he said concerned my mother and sister.I heard them once, then twice, and the third time I couldn’t control myself. I am a man and some words are harder to hear than actions."

Ok, so they don’t even agree on whether Malika Zidane was insulted - though according to The Mirror her reaction was to demand Materazzis castration. Good Lord, can the Brit tabloids please for once shut up?? Also, do the lip readers now need to change their translation to “Your mother and sister are a couple of terrorist whores”?
And unless something was lost in translation, Zizou can you please cut out the "I am a man" macho crap? (though with my limited French i gathered he actually trying to say "I am human". at least from the tf1 interview, which i thought was much better and way more interesting than the Canal + one .)

English papers first reported that Zidane specified that Materazzi didn't call him a terrorist. Then they said he didn’t specifically mention anything about being called a terrorist. Then Le Monde reported Michel Denisot asking Zidane whether what Materazzi had called Zidane "the son of a terrorist whore" to which Zidane answered simply, "Well, yes."
Confusion anyone??!!

Anyway, Zizou did seem surprisingly calm and self assured during both interviews. But why was he wearing military khaki style clothes?? He should've worn something that said look at me, father of four kids, family man, i was wronged. He needs a new PR person.
Though perhaps the military style wear went more with his 'Sorry kids, but "Je ne regrette rien"' stance. Am also curious where the tf1 interview was conducted. If Zizou reads those many books (why do i doubt this?) i now love him even more....

Anyway it of course doesn’t end here. The French have now started comparing Zizou to Camus (not for the first time though). Well, they are both French Algerian (and Zizou said he’s now going to go back to Algeria to find his roots again).
Apparently le coup de tête is now the ultimate existential act.
See - how can you not love the French?? Trust them to find some philosophical meaning in a headbutt.

Also note philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who was quoted in L’Equipe as saying that Zidane’s act was the "suicide of a demigod.....an interior revolt against the stupid ivory tower in which he had been placed in recent months". And then in the WSJ he writes "man of providence, saviour, titan, valiant knight, a blue redeeming angel dressed in white...he's a super-Achilles...a hair's breadth from victory.." Eh? Ok, whatever. Also never mind Zizou has no hair.

And there’s more still. In Iran, Kayhan, a radical hard line newspaper ran a front-page story using two big pictures of the infamous headbutt. The headline read: "Zidane's proud farewell - The best player of the World Cup defended his Islamic identity."
Never mind that as The Guardian points out - Zidane calls himself a non-practicing Muslim and is married to a scarfless, non-Muslim dancer from Spain who has borne him four boys, none with an Islamic name. (That’s not true though. Zizou's 6 month old is named Elyaz).

And to end, after his show of support for Zidane, Jacques Chirac, who had been suffering his worst approval ratings, suddenly showed a slight rise in popularity.

All this ruckus. And no one knows what happened - still.
Zidane in the tf1 interview said he'll tell FIFA what happened and then said "If someone can read [Materazzi’s] lips, they will show that I’m telling the truth. The one who is really guilty must be punished."
Well Zizou, how about you save us the lip readers' crap and just spit it out??

My favorite version (read on blogosphere somewhere) is this:
Materazzi: Hey Zidane, want to suck my d**k?
Zidane: You want me to give you head? I'll give you head.
*Proceeds to land superlatively elegant headbutt on Materazzis strenum* LOL!

Ok then. So, can we move on now?


Update: Yes, the madness is still going on. And yes I am caught up in it all, so what you gonna do? headbutt me?
Anyway, just adding a couple of links. Here and here.
Also have to say my respect for Aimé Jacquet just increases. Seems like he is the only sane person in all the lunacy thats going on and was spot on in saying that both sides were at "the very edge of their mental and physical limits". In such stressful circumstances, Jacquet observed with sadness, Zizou is prone to react and "he simply could not control himself".
Also, Adidas launches the Merci Zidane website tomorrow. Please visit =).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

How do you react to this?

Seems like "WHY?" has been my mantra of the week.

how do you react to things like this?? ....people in mumbai please stay safe - that sounds so lame but still....i just pray communal riots don't break out...

and what is the justification for this??...trying to get the tourism industry back on track was the one thing going for Kashmir....

Sigh, why do such people exist??
I feel so terribly sad and angry.

and apparently you can't even open the sports page without reading stuff like this anymore.
"After the Cup victory Calderoli, the former minister of reform and a member of the right-wing Northern League party said that the Italians had vanquished a French team that was comprised of 'Negroes, communists and Moslems'."

Again, why do such people exist??
What a f*cked up world.

Merci Zizou. Pour tout.

The headbutt that has been seen around the world. What has not been said about it already? I didn't blog about it earlier because the entire episode was so upsetting that in my absolute biasness, grief and anger i ended up ranting about it for two whole days on the phone and in numerous emails to people...despite blowing off steam, this post will probably end up being a rant anyway....i take a deep deep breath and here goes....

This was the last image of Zizou from the World Cup - walking past the Cup, with tears in his eyes. it was heart wrenching and maddening. This wasn't how it should have ended. This shouldn't have been part of the script. During the match such a short snapshot of Zizous sudden violence was shown that it made no sense what so ever. The whole thing was so sudden and idiotic and unnecessary. I think its beside the point to argue that France would have won with him there till the end....perhaps, but they probably wouldn't have even been in Berlin if not for Zizou.

Aime Jacquet, who led France to World Cup glory in '98 summed up exactly how i felt watching Zidane walk into the dressing room..."Why did Zizou do it? Who is Materazzi to deserve a reaction like that from Zidane? What came over him? For God's sake, you just can't finish your career in that way! Zizou didn't deserve that. That sending off was like a collapse for me.... I feel empty."

Why, was, and still is, the question.

No one can condone what he did...it was completely out of order and deserved a red card and sending off. And that stands, whatever the latest news update on what exactly Materazzi said. Nipple tweak or not, abuses and slurs aside, ZZ should just not have reacted.

But heres the thing, that is so much easier to say than to actually do. Two days before the final, over dinner some of us were discussing the match and players when someone passed a completely unnecessary, deregatory comment about Zidanes ethnicity and religion. It was highly frutrating and beside the point and only caused me to burst into a complete tirade and verbal lashing that was so extreme that there was stunned silence till i got up and walked off. And this a reaction from someone who simply admires his game.

The fact is, Zidanes greatness aside, the background of how the son of Muslim Algerian immigrants made it big has added to his legend. It has also brought with an immense amount of racism for him to deal with. Everyone knows of Le Pen and of the France - Algeria match. Zidane is known to be extremely proud of his Kabyle origins, he is known for his utter devotion to family. There are some thing that are perhaps too personal and its best not to try and make sense of peoples reactions to these. If (and its still an if) Materazzi's comments were racist I would understand Zidane losing his temper and his sanity for that split second. I would not condone it, but understand it i would.

What is most frustrating (and as Confused has already blogged about) is how Zizou is now being called a 'common criminal', a 'street thug', an 'animal' and most of all of how much is being made of the fact that he comes from a ghetto background, from one of the most impoverished areas of France. Almost as if that explains it all. This was bound to happen after all wasn't it, what do you expect from someone who grew up in areas like La Castallene?
(And i have to say here, there is definitely too much hooha being made about Zidanes stamp in the '98 match against Saudi Arabia, his headbutt at Juve was vicious though).

And what of Marco Materazzi??He who claims "I am not a cultured person and I don't even know what an Islamist terrorist is." Why has FIFA taken no action against him when they obviously should have? (about action that should have been taken - the Figo headbutt anyone?)

As Mark Foot writes: "If the account is true, Materazzi would be guilty of an offence in this country: racially aggravated disorderly conduct, on the basis of abuse of someone because of their nationality. Why should footballers put up with racist abuse or racially aggravated insults without protection? If it is crime off the pitch, why (if indeed it has happened) should Materazzi feel he can insult the best player in the world for his nationality."
And racist comments aside (since they haven't been conclusively proven) what of the nipple twist?? (Why do i have a feeling that Mr. Materazzi's legacy will be to be remembered as thug and the guy who got butted by Zidane?)

To those who say Zidanes legacy has now been ruined, I have nothing to say. Those of us who have watched Zizou have to thank him for the many moments of pure genius and inspiration he has given us. He is a true masterclass. Unfortunately, we have to add to that one final moment of pure madness. Has his legacy been soiled - yes. But Zidane's legacy is so much greater than this one act. The '98 World Cup, his passes, his roulettes and yes, his headers.

Zizou, you shall always remain my hero. You do know that don't you? All I have to say to you is this - Merci. Pour tout. Thank You. For everything.

Much has been made of the Observer article by Andrew Hussey. I read it about a year back and i do think its rather good. Linked here. Another wonderful piece from The Independent on why Zizou is still Frances hero here.

Jabberwocks hilarious take on how a true Zizou fan would react to the headbutt incident - I mean sure, he had to be red-carded, no question about that. But did you see that head-butt? If you have to end your career with a head-butt, this is the perfect way to do it. It was as graceful and effective and beautiful as everything else the man has done in his entire career. Couldn't agree more.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Photographie Exquis

Remember her? One of National Geographics most famous covers, with those haunting green eyes. The photo is by one of my favorite photographers Steve McCurry. Slate has a wonderful interactive essay, The Aesthetic Hunter, on his photographs here.

In stark contrast to McCurry's brilliantly rich and vivid style are the pictures by my other absolutely favorite photographer, the great Henri Cartier-Bresson. He is single handedly responsible for all the black and white postcards that decorate the door of my cupboard.
The potrait here is of the brilliant Albert Camus (whose L'Étranger i am re-reading right now). The Washington Post has an excellent gallery of some of Cartier-Bresson's other potraits here.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Who'd have thunk it?

The French are the Brits new best friends....
From today’s Guardian:
Revenge is a dish best served cold, but today's papers seem pretty happy for it to be served by our new best friends, the French. "Spot-on Zidane gains revenge for England" declares The Sun, with the surprising news that Zizou knocked Portugal out of the World Cup in the name of Blighty.

Hilarious i say!! The Brits never do forget do they??(note how they still call Maradona a cheating scumbag)
This from the minute by minute account of the match:
2 mins: Ronaldo collects the ball on the left and is roundly booed by large sections of the crowd. Seems not all Englishmen have gone home.

Also hilarious, the completely opposing viewpoints here. Examples –

Portugal have, yet again, demonstrated what they are: A disgraceful third rate football team composed of cheats, pantomime dames and low quality players who have managed to con their way to a semi-final. The only good points were Zidanes sweetly taken penalty and the constant booing of Ronaldo. Ronaldo's 'Superman' dive for a penalty claim was hilarious......Portugal now have worldwide recognition as the dirtiest, low-life team on the planet. ....The filthy scab on the body football has been picked off for now.

And to counter-

The only cheating I saw today was Henry leaving his foot back to take that dive over Carvalho's leg which was there before Henry turned. The only negative play I saw was France defending deep most of the game and being happy with a shoddy penalty. And I counted more dives by the French than by the Portuguese, especially in the first half hour…But, hey, everybody loves Zizou and Henry. Like the English, they "deserve" to win, so screw fairness and let's slander the opposition.

Football is so much fun in its rawness!!! Still, it makes me wonder really how far have we come from Roman style gladiator games....probably not much eh??

Anyway, hope the Germans kick Portuguese ass on Saturday.....
instead of slowly turning into a nut case thinking about the final i have decided all i really want is for Zidane to have a F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S last match (oh, also win the golden ball!).....allez Zizou!!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Paranoia Zizou

I wished and hoped and prayed and sat with my fingers in complete knots for the entire match ..... and they won! and won how!! it was like watching the Zizou of old, Zizou the footballer cum ballet dancer, Zizou the zen master..... it was wonderful !!

They won't get past round one, Zidane is too old, theres too much racism, no team spirit , Brazil will score within 15 minutes of the starting whistle - right!
But now the semi final beckons and i am getting increasingly paranoid about tomorrows match. I haven't been this paranoid about a match in eons and eons.... sure, i watched Zidane at Real Madrid. I completely choked up during his farewell match at the Bernabéu, seeing the entire crowd hold up number 5 cutouts, cheering and thanking the master midfielder and most of all to see the usually reserved, unemotional Zizou turn teary eyed.
But the fact is that the last couple of years have seen Real become a complete circus and i would watch Zizou play, the results didn't really matter.

This is different. This is Zidanes swansong. This is the World Cup.
My stomach is in a total knot and i keep imagining disastrous situations.....what if they don't win? what if Zidane gets his second yellow card?? ...and then my friends (horrifically true) statement....the Portuguese can play really dirty - they'll go for his legs!..... arghh!!...i clutch my head (again!) and try to exorcise these horrible, horrible thoughts!

They should win, must win - pour Zizou, for who deserves a more fitting setting for his last match than the best player of our times?
Allez Zizou et bonne chance!!!